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November 15, 2018 2:21 PM

Program prepares women for careers in the skilled trades

Students in Conestoga’s Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) certificate program made their first trip to a construction site on November 7 when they toured the Vista Hills by Activa housing development in Waterloo.

Conestoga College - Activa visit 2018.jpg
To complement their shop and theory classes, students in Conestoga's Women in Skilled Trades program visited the Vista Hills by Activa construction site in Waterloo on November 7 to view new home builds at various stages of completion.

“Field trips are a fun and practical way to experience everything the WIST women are learning in shop class and in theory,” said Nadine Jannetta, WIST and ETT4W (Engineering, Trades and Technology for Women) liaison at Conestoga. “Instead of isolating projects to the classroom they are able to be on site with the builders and human resources representatives and see the different components of their learning put together in a larger package. It allows the women to ask questions and get answers about things they are familiar with from shop classes, but also ask about the things that are different or unfamiliar. Field trips like this one bring their learning to life on a larger scale.”

WIST is a tuition-free program funded by the provincial government to support low-income women who are unemployed or underemployed prepare for careers within the construction sector as a general carpenter with the basic skills required to secure a position as an apprentice. The 34-week program includes 26 weeks of in-class practical theory and hands-on experience, and includes a paid eight-week work placement.

“Although Canada’s representation of women across all workplaces has increased, the skilled trades remain an area (especially the construction trades) where women are underrepresented,” explained Jannetta. “Programs like WIST here at Conestoga aim to close that gap. We also encourage the WIST women to attend events to educate and expose young girls, other women and their families to the opportunities for women that exist in the skilled trades.”

In a report released in October 2017 by the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, women were found to account for just 4.5 per cent of skilled trade workers in Canada, but the college’s support of women in skilled trades is part of a larger picture that projects a significant shortage of skilled trade workers in Canada in coming years.

Conestoga’s Jill of All Trades, Go ENG Girl, Go CODE Girl, and Trades and Technology days are held at Conestoga campuses for young women in high school to learn more about careers and opportunities in engineering and technology as well as the skilled trades.

During the Activa visit, students toured three properties to see various stages of construction - rough framing, insulating stage and the finishing stage - and were accompanied by construction manager Rob Bello who answered questions about the builds, and shared advice about potential careers in the trades.

Megan Sprason, human resources generalist with Activa, said the company has hired Conestoga students from both the WIST and Construction Techniques programs.

“Women are underrepresented in the skilled trades yet many employers welcome them with outstretched arms,” said Jannetta.

Applications for Conestoga’s next delivery of the Women in Skilled Trades General Carpenter Pre-Apprenticeship certificate program will open in March 2019.

Visit the School of Trades & Apprenticeship or email ETT4W to learn more about women in trades.

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